Friday, May 25, 2007

Student Drinking on Adventist Campusses

I have not often heard frank discussion on this topic in the Adventist schools and colleges that I've been involved with. Our focus is usually on the unambiguous rules at our institutions that prohibit any use of alcohol. It was refreshing when the Spectrum blog posted two vcasts from Pacific Union College in which students and dormitory deans talk frankly about the fact that students on Adventist campuses sometimes have issues with drinking and how they attempt to address the issue.

On Sunday, The Sunday Times published an interview with the newly appointed head of Stellenbosch University about challenges facing this university. (Stellenbosch is a traditionally Afrikaans university with approximately 20 000 students. It is situated about 20 km from Helderberg College.) One of the major themes of this interview was the problem of student drinking. The university of Stellenbosch is currently engaging with student clubs and entertainment spots to close at "reasonable" hours of the night and to co-operate in limiting student drinking.

Why am I mentioning these facts on this blog?

1. There is certainly a temptation to be proud about the fact that student drinking is not such a wholesale problem on our campuses. Adventist campuses are still a safer environment to live and study in if a person wants to make healthy lifestyle choices.

2. But I am under no illusions that we do not have students who drink. In all likelihood we have students who abuse alcohol. (In fact, according to the discussion on the Spectrum blog, it is likely that some Adventist students who come from conservative homes are likely to abuse alcohol more seriously than students who grew up with alcohol being used commonly around them) I am not convinced that we have adequately dealt with this fact. Students who struggle with this issue are usually afraid to raise the issue because they expect immediate punitive action or stigmatization. There is a shortage of communal knowledge of the problem and how to deal with it.

3. So I've started to do some research. The field is very wide. My interest is to try to come to some conclusions of what my role should be as a professional responsible for the health and wellbeing of a number of students.

In the process I found a number of facts that I feel every student should be aware of. Some basic knowledge of the effects of alcohol could save somebody's life:

Alcohol Overdose is a life threatening situation.

Alcohol overdose becomes apparent when a person consumed more alcohol than their body needs to create a pleasant euphoria, and the negative effects of alcohol begins to display themselves. What physically happens is that there is more alcohol in a person's body than the liver can process and get rid of. Levels of alcohol build up in the blood stream and negative effects of alcohol begin to present themselves.

How would a person recognise signs of an overdose?

It usually begins with slurred speech, problems with balance, loss of memory. These symptoms seem common, but they can very quickly become life threatening. Knowing the signs of a life threatening overdose can save somebody's life:

If a person is passed out or semi-conscious and cannot be awakened
If a person vomits while sleeping or passed out and does not wake up
When the rate of breathing seems slow or irregular.
If a person has cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin colour.

Why are these symptoms life threatening?

Alcohol has the ability to shut down centers in the brain that control functions like breathing, heart rate, and the gag reflex, which normally helps prevent you from choking on things like your own vomit.

What do you do when you suspect that a friend suffers from an Alcohol Overdose?

Get help immediately. This is not the time to try to hide it away. Your friend needs help.
Stay with your friend.
Lay your friend on his/her side to keep them from choking on their vomit.
Once help arrives, tell them everything that you know about what the person drank, when they had their last drink, whether other drugs were ingested, etc.

Facts and Myths about sobering up:

There is really only one way in which a person sobers up. The person's liver needs to process the alcohol and get rid of it. This will take time.

The following will not help at all:

Drinking coffee. All you get when you give coffee to a drunk person is a wide awke drunk person!

Taking a cold bath or shower. This could help with hiegiene and the person might smell better, but the will not sober up.

Sleeping it off. This could be very dangerous. It is possible to still have alcohol in the stomach that has not been absorbed, meaning that the person could become even more intoxicated while they are sleeping.

Walking it off. It might help burn off some calories but that's about it.

(Reference: In doing research I downloaded some pamphlets by an organisation, Outside The Classroom. This information comes from one of their pamphlets.)

Another useful resource on student alcohol use is: Facts on Tap.

I would love to hear my readers opinion on this issue. I would also like to offer my service and time to anybody who needs help in dealing with this issue. Would anybody else like to become involved in raising awareness of these issues on campus?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

More about Vision

It is really stimulating and interesting to be so integrally part of the development of a vision statement for the College.

We've published potential version of the vision statement and received some feedback from students and staff. Now we feel that it is important to publish a second possible version as there is some debate. I would love to receive your feedback.

Below is a copy of the two possible versions:

Option 1
Helderberg College will be the institution of choice,

setting the standards of Seventh-day Adventist higher education in Southern Africa,

equipping its students:

to fulfill their calling, to dream great dreams, serving noble causes, and

living fulfilled productive lives.

Option 2

Helderberg College will be the institution of choice, setting the standards of SDA higher education in Southern Africa.
We seek to produce highly skilled, reflective professionals, qualified for effective and compassionate service in church and society.

Here is some of the debate that we've had about the versions:

I received the following e-mail in support of Option 1:

I am going to elucidate a little on the thoughts that I presented before - what
more could an institution want than for its students in Christian context
to fulfill their calling - to be equipped to fulfill their calling as well
trained pastors and ministers, for teachers to be fulfill their calling by
being well equipped to teach with passion and vision, for business men to
be ethical and far sighted in doing their business, for secretaries to be
faithful, supportive of the work done for the institution etc. In other
words - by equipping them to fulfill their calling - we would be fulfilling
our vision as a Christian Adventist institution. Is it not our vision
amidst all the stuff we teach to open up windows for students, to see what
they can become - to dream great dreams. How many great causes have
started because someone helped them to dream - helping students to feel
free to dream - to open those windows of opportunity, to see beyond the
classroom of tests and examinations to what they may be! Is it not part of
our vision to help our students to serve noble causes, not just to waste
their time on pifling things but to dedicate their lives to the great
Christain causes - whatever their calling. Finally our vision is to equip
them to live fulfilled productive lives. That their lives will reflect the
great values that we espouse and that this will lead to living fulfilled
productive lives. It seems to me in a vision statement these ideas do have
merit and should be considered, but if it we find that it does not resonate
with any one else then they need to be discarded and forgotten.

I paraphrase the argument for Option 2 below:

Option 1 is very general. It could be appended to the vision of a Pathfinder club or a women's group, or to almost any community organisation, and it would still sound good and be relevant. It does not really establish a distinctive niche for us to develop a specific identity as a Christian higher education institution.

It would be useful for our vision statement to allude more specifically to the particular product that we would like to produce at the College. What will they do? What values will they have? What impact will they have on society? (Are they entrepreneurs or good corporate citizens? Are they consumers or activists? Can they take empowering initiatives to bring about positive social change? Are they prepared to stand for principles even if they are not popular? etc.

The only question is if option 2 fits best within a vision statement, or is it already encapsulated in the Mission of the College.

I would love to hear the opinions of others who have an interest in the future of Helderberg College. (Please comment).